Published Thursday, January 29, 2015 10:10PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 29, 2015 10:39PM EST
In the first study of its kind, Canadian researchers are investigating whether probiotics, the good stomach bacteria that aid digestion, regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, may in fact be a treatment for those with bipolar disorder.
Human guts contain 400 different kinds of probiotics, and health food store shelves are filled with different brands to help keep them at optimal levels.
Researchers at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto are studying probiotics versus a placebo in 50 patients with bipolar disorder. The patients stay on their medication over the eight-week trial, and researchers are studying whether the probiotics help further stabilize their illness.
Probiotics are “a novel area for exploration” for treating mental illness, researcher Dr. Valerie Taylor, a psychiatrist at Women’s College, told CTV News.
The key to improving treatments, and the lives of those suffering from mental illness, may lie in “looking outside the box and other body systems,” Taylor said.
“There may be something (with probiotics) that is worth exploring and we’ll never know unless we try,” she said.